A game to reduce crowding in San Francisco’s public transit system

Starting this spring, the “City by the Bay” will test a new program based on rewards to incentivize riders to use the public transports outside of the rush hours. Points, gifts, games… a positive motivation system that goes against the tide of what is done elsewhere in the United States.


Arriving a bit earlier or a little bit later at work or at school. Working remotely from home. Reducing the price of tickets at off-peak times… There are many alternatives for improving the public transport flow.

There is also the “Jules Verne train”, Doc’s time machine in Back to the Future 3. No more rush hour problems. Not sure that the city has the budget for it. (Source: backtothefuture.wikia.com)


But your boss or teacher might not agree with such an option. Or maybe you just don’t want to change your daily commute route and routine.

The city of Washington, for example (among others) uses a system of negative motivationthe “black hat” in Yu-Kai Chou’s terminology: Charging a higher price for tickets during rush hours to dissuade the users.

Conversely, San Fransisco is about to try positive motivation through gamification. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), will launch a pilot program this Spring involving 25,000 participants during six months.

No need to try to find a joke related to the The Simpsons. Matt Groening did that already.


Within the program BART Perks, travellers are incited, via mini-games and monetary rewards, to avoid the time slot between 7 am and 8.30 am and take the train one hour earlier or one hour later.

Volunteers will have their trips tracked through their electronic transportation cards. They will be rewarded with points according to their efforts. Points can also be earned by getting friends involved in the program.

Then, those points can be redeemed for small rebates, small cash rewards, or even gambled in games like a virtual roulette or Snakes and Ladders. Commuters can win up to $100 in those mini-games. A good way to incite people to change a bit their routine.

According to BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost, they never considered raising the fees and preferred the option to “give money back to users”. “We use the carrot and not the stick. “


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